Topsham mulls downtown drainage improvements

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TOPSHAM — As the town works through its fiscal 2018 budget process this winter and spring, drainage improvements in the Lower Village are a major consideration.

The town’s Lower Village Committee, which is looking into traffic improvements in the area of Elm Street Extension and Winter Street, has recommended the town first tackle the subterranean issues, Town Manager Rich Roedner said in an interview Feb. 17.

“Once we’ve built something, we don’t want to cut it up again,” he noted.

The aged 48-inch culvert in question starts on the north side of Elm Street Extension, running parallel to part of Main Street. The culvert crosses under Main Street and discharges in the area of the “Granny Hole” – part of the former channel which separated Bowdoin Mill Island from the mainland, according to Roedner.

“We don’t have any defined history” on the culvert, he said. “Parts of it appears to be 40, 50 years old, parts of it appear to be a little bit older than that. Parts perhaps are quite a bit older than that.”

The town has known for years that improvements to the system were in the pipeline; it was a project highlighted when Topsham created the downtown tax increment financing district, the manager noted.

“We’ll continue talking during the budget process about whether now is the time to work on engineering this year, perhaps followed by construction next year,” Roedner said, adding the town must determine if the whole system should be replaced, or just the upstream metal portions in particularly poor shape.

The system was built with different materials at different times, and concrete sections could possibly be rehabilitated instead, Roedner added.

Economic development funds have been set aside for addressing the system, which runs roughly 700 feet top to bottom, and takes drainage from as far away as Monument Place, Roedner said. Replacing the whole system could cost roughly $250,000, according to construction estimates, but could ultimately cost more.

“Once we learn more, it might better inform what the cost is going to be,” Roedner said. “… We’ve only been able to see part of it. The lower 400 or 500 feet, we haven’t been able to get a camera into to take a look at it, so we’re not sure what’s there.”

“There’s a lot of concern that there’s more that we don’t know than we do know,” he added.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Topsham officials are looking into replacing all or part of a Lower Village drainage pipeline that begins at the north side of Elm Street Extension (mislabeled here as Winter Street,) that leads directly onto Elm Street. The line then runs south, parallel to part of Main Street, crossing under Main and discharging in the area of the “Granny Hole” stream, located at the bottom center of this Google Maps image.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.